The Earth is for Dancing

  • Round: Books: 5 Page Challenge

  • Genre:
    Fiction: Teen, Literary
  • Submitted: September 09, 2011


Status: Elevated to Round 3

  • Want it elevated: 65%
  • Publishing Pro Rating: Under review.
  • 1%


  • 6%


  • 28%


  • 44%


  • 21%


% want it elevated


5 Page Challenge

Pages 1-5 | Extended Sample


Fifteen-year-old Sam lives alone with her grandmother, who has late-stage Alzheimer's. She can't let anyone know that she is the one in charge or she could lose her home and the only family she's ever had. And thanks to high school, that is the least of her problems right now.

Pages 1 - _

Chapter One



The blaring laughter that followed the processed lunchmeat outburst could only mean that my usual tormentors were wide-awake and on the prowl.  I turned up the volume to my headphones and dropped my purse and backpack on the nearest cafeteria table, far from the center table where they were still sitting together snickering over the name they had baptized me with way back in third grade.  The jerks of the male variety literally high-fived each other when they saw me drop my head and turn away from their table.

How original.  Spam.  Because it rhymes with Sam.  The young poet laureates of Benton, Florida, had put their heads together in this think tank of a public school wasteland and come up with a real zinger.  And it’s been with me ever since.

I’m sure the fine people at the Discovery Channel could do an entire documentary on the high school food chain, the survival of the fittest, the evolution of the various packs that make up the society, the workers, drones, and queen bee of the hive.  All that stuff.  Because maybe then their researchers could explain to the rest of us what exactly sets some students apart as carnivores and the rest of us as their prey.

I mean, I’m a completely ordinary girl.  I wake up, come to this war zone of a school, and go home.  I’m absolutely the most typical looking person, with plain brown hair, hazelish eyes, a little on the skinny side.  I don’t stand out, I don’t call attention to myself, I don’t try to overthrow anyone’s Homecoming Queen throne, so how come I’m the total victim?  I guess it still wouldn’t change how some of these mental midgets treat me, but I don’t bother anybody.  So why me?

The “Spam! Spam! Spam!” Spam-chant began at one table towards the middle of the room, whispered at first, but getting louder, punctuated with some good rhythmic table-pounding until finally a teacher looks up from her lunchtime coma and tells them to quiet down.

A few of the tables scattered around the oversized room are filled with kids who typically ignore the brutal and out-loud teasing, probably because they’ve been Professional Victims at some point or another in this inferno.  I’m sure they’re feeling super embarrassed for me, so they look out the windows or at their lunch trays or anywhere else but at me.  If they see me looking at them, they’ll have to acknowledge that they sat silently on the sidelines and watched the gladiator match of me versus the cool kids without throwing me a lifeline.  Or at least putting me out of my misery.

My grandmother, who is probably the wisest and happiest person on the planet, lived by this mantra and it made her into the craziest upbeat person on the entire planet: “If you can’t see the bright side, polish the dull side.”  So here goes.  On the bright side, no one talking to me means that my one real friend has plenty of my undivided attention.  No one besides Other Sam ever talks to me, but Other Sam doesn’t count.  He has to talk to me, first because of the obvious name thing but also because he’s my almost-next-door neighbor.  We’ve walked to the bus stop together every day since we started school and even though he’s old enough to drive now and got a really great car for his sixteenth birthday, he still takes the bus with me.

The greatest thing about Other Sam is when he pretends to be Spam for me.  He waves and smiles at the taunters like they’re complimenting him with their remarks, then acts like he’s shocked that they were actually talking ugly about him.  Everybody knows the cool kids are talking about me, but he always floats into the room and takes the heat, acting weird the way only he can until just about everyone has forgotten why they were talking about Spam in the first place.  He’s lucky.  He doesn’t care what anyone says or does, mostly because his family has more money than that entire lunch table’s families combined, but they get to me every time.  The really crappy thing is they know it.

It’s not long before the food starts flying.  It always starts small, with chunks of a roll or the occasional flicked pea.  If that fails to get my attention, it’s not long before something sauce-covered whops with perfect accuracy right in front of me, close enough to splatter me but not so close that it actually hits me.  Today it’s industrial cafeteria meatloaf, rolled in extra-goopy amounts of ketchup.  I brush the chunks aside with my napkin and go back to eating my tray.

“Why don’t you fling that back at them?” Other Sam asks as he drops his backpack on the floor beside the table and takes the seat across from me, wrinkling his nose at the processed food invasion.  “Don’t take that off them.”

“It’s better to just let it go.  They’re just trying to get a reaction.  When they figure out it isn’t going to happen, they’ll get bored.  Or something shiny will fly past them and they’ll get distracted,” I mumble into my lunch.  The next piece just misses lodging itself in my hair.

“Tell me once again why we keep eating in here?”  Other Sam rolls his eyes at our surroundings, as though all of high school but especially a cafeteria is too ridiculous to be tolerated.  I’m starting to agree with him there.

“You know how I adore fine dining,” I smirk, “and the haute cuisine in this establishment is incomparable.  You do know they don’t allow just anyone to eat here.  You have to be somebody important and know the right people just to get a table, and even then the reservations can take months.”  Other Sam smiled at me, relieved that I can still make a joke with the continuous barrage of food stuffs still arriving in front of us.  What I can’t face is telling him that I receive free lunch and this is the only hot food I’m going to eat all day.  The food is nasty and the ambiance sucks, but it’s one meal that I don’t have to cook for myself or worse, dip into my meager budget for.

I also can’t stand to tell him that my free lunch is the reason they’re trying to pelt me with pieces of lunch.  It became an inside joke of theirs years ago, pretending they were offering me more food since I’m obviously too poor to afford any myself.  I thought the names of kids who received free lunch was supposed to be confidential, but obviously I was mistaken.  Of course, it doesn’t take a detective to figure out who has money in this school and who doesn’t.  Take a stroll through the parking lot sometime checking out the sports cars and you’ll see where the student body power really lies.

A French fry whistled through the air with not just awesome accuracy but also some real speed to it.  They must have enlisted the help of a member of our school’s baseball team. 

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